Here at HCD we aim to keep our clients well informed on all subjects that
relate to the digital space. The Net Neutrality debate may not be the
sexiest topic on our radar, but as it has the potential to change the way
we use the Internet, we thought it was worth passing on the following
The Net Neutrality debate in the United States is one of those topics
that could be nothing, but it could, potentially, be cause for serious
concern. In all cases, such as this debate, it is better to be well
informed and well prepared so that you can take any necessary steps to
minimise any potential for damage before it occurs.
The topic of Net Neutrality is far from new; for the
better part of a decade, many parts of the world have been discussing and
debating the case for a neutral and open Internet. The debate has become
particularly heated in the United States, however, with large
corporations supporting both sides and the subject sparking numerous
protests and petitions.
Major political decisions in the United States always seem to echo an
effect globally, so will the outcome of their decision change the
Internet as we know it today?
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is a term that was first coined by a law professor in
2003, and very simply, is the idea that data on the Internet should be
treated equally by Internet Service Providers in regard to transmission
(sending and receiving the data), and in regard to fees applied to the
services provided by Internet Service Providers.
In a nut-shell, this is the argument for an "open Internet" or for a
"closed Internet". An "open Internet" being one where people can
use the Internet equally without any interference from third-parties (no
slowing of Internet speeds, no blocking of Internet services or
websites). A "closed Internet" being the opposite, where the content or
Internet services a person can access is restricted and managed by the
service provider they use to connect to the Internet.
One can imagine the limitations of having a "closed Internet" - for
example, not being able to access YouTube, because your Internet Service
Provider has their own equivalent website, or is partnered with a
What are the current arguments for Net Neutrality in the
In one corner, there are many Internet content and application providers
such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, along with groups such as
Free Press, the Consumer Federation of America, the American Library
Association, Gun Owners of America who are all in support for Net
Neutrality. Just recently, the Major League Baseball (who are the largest
distributor of live video on broadband networks in the US) also joined
the supporting side.
Their argument is equal access to the Internet is a right, that the
current lack of regulation is what created the Internet and Information
Revolution in the first place. Supporters also argue that removing Net
Neutrality will cause content providers to pay more to deliver their
content, which will be passed on to consumers. Also, smaller content
providers will have to queue up behind paying content providers who can
afford to pay for their content to be delivered faster, resulting in the
smaller companies being pushed off the Internet.
What are the current arguments against Net Neutrality in the
In the opposite corner, groups like Americans for Prosperity, the
National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Competitive Enterprise Institute
as well as all of the major Telecommunication and Internet Service
Providers such as Comcast and AT&T are strongly opposed to Net
Neutrality; and are even accused of attempting to essentially buy support
and votes to help their cause.
The opposition stance is that Net Neutrality limits the usefulness of
the Internet, and will discourage investment in the development of new
infrastructure, which would result in limiting the overall bandwidth
available for Internet data. The opposition also counter arguments from
supporters of Net Neutrality by stating that the Internet is not
classified as a utility, and so should not be regulated as such; and that
by giving bandwidth preference to popular content is actually in the best
interests of the consumer because that is what the majority want to
Will the outcome affect Internet in Australia?
The short answer is yes, as much as it will affect the Internet
globally, though the effects may be more obvious for Australians as many
of the communications cables linking Australia to the rest of the world
link to the US. A significant chunk of global Internet traffic flows to
and from the United States, and limiting the flow of traffic will have
What about the Net Neutrality Argument in Australia?
We have already finished our debate about Net Neutrality, and it has
been seen as a lost battle. The Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission already regulates Internet Service Providers, and prevents
network traffic management that would be considered as being
anti-competitive behaviour. Australian Internet Service Providers could
be considered to be discriminating, however, in providing un-metered data
however, which provides access to websites or services that does not
count to the users data allowance, and could possibly result in users
preferring the free service over a competitors. In this sense, Australian
Internet is not truly Net Neutral, but un-metered content is seen as a
benefit to consumers that have limited data allowance plans as opposed to
the unlimited data allowances that all US consumers have.
HCD Tip: Keep an eye on this debate, as it may very well change
the way everyone uses and thinks about the Internet.
What is your opinion? Do you agree or disagree with the
idea of a Net Neutrality? How do you think the Net Neutrality discussion
in the United States will affect Australia? Share your thoughts on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.